Miami might get the headlines among many tourists, but if you really want to see the underwater beauty of the Gulf it's hard to compete with Fort Myers Beach or Naples Florida. There are many diving sites worth seeing in this section of the Gulf.
When it comes to the scuba diving and snorkeling near Fort Myers or Naples Florida, it shouldn't come as any surprise that there are some major sites to see off the Florida coast. The area's warm waters tend to be extremely clear as well as loaded with nutrients that attract all sorts of marine life. The Gulf of Mexico boasts a mostly sandy bottom, which means that any place where there is any type of structure, reef, or habitat will be absolutely teeming with aquatic life. These habitats take many forms off the coast from Fort Myers Beach or Naples and include natural patch reefs, ledges, artificially created reefs, shrimp boat wrecks, and barge wrecks.
If you're heading even further south in the region to Naples Florida, then before heading into the water you might also want to see some of the local sites before heading out for some awesome diving action. Naples is famous for the surrounding parks in the area, which include the Big Cypress National Preserve, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and a wide range of Everglades outliers. In fact, Naples Florida is one of the largest cities left before hitting the Everglades further south.
Depending on which dock you leave from, most dive sites are anywhere from two to 15 miles offshore, and the snorkeling is done at lower depths closer to shore. Many near shore trips within 10 miles of shore are available around artificial reefs at depths of only 40 or 50 feet. Ship wreckages or artificial reefs tend to quickly become absolutely covered in sponges and soft coral of all different shapes and colors. In addition to this you will have a great opportunity to see sand dollars, starfish, the always beautiful florescent colored nudibranch mollusks, and a plethora of colorful sea shells all around.
This doesn't even get into the fish and larger animals you have a chance of seeing. Just a few of the tropical fish you could spot include Queen Angelfish, French Angelfish, Blue Tangs, and Parrot Fish. There are also plenty of predatory fish looking to get in on the action so don't be surprised if aside from shimmering silver bait fish you also see Snook, Snapper, Sheepshead, Jacks, Mackerel, Cobia, and Barracuda.
These Fort Meyers Beach diving areas and Naples Florida diving areas also boldly boast of being home to the largest concentration of Goliath Groupers perhaps in the world – many reach up to seven feet in length and can weigh up to 700 pounds, with 200 to 400 pound fish being fairly common. That's quite a sight from under water! You can also occasionally catch a glance at some impressive Stingrays like the Spotted Eagle Rays, and if you're really lucky you may even get a close up encounter with the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle.
Contrary to many parts of the country, the summer months can be a good time to visit as the weather is so hot that those are not always the top tourist months. Months like April and May or September and October can be very busy when Florida's weather is warm but not too warm, so plan accordingly and do your homework to figure out the best times to visit. It's always a good idea to call ahead for reservations, and watch out for January. While the local pirate celebration of Gasparilla is biggest in Tampa at the end of the month, celebrations will heavily affect prices for about a week surrounding it up and down the coast.
Extremely experienced divers looking for some serious adventure will also be thrilled with the expert diving options Fort Myers Beach and Naples Florida diving tours can offer. These aren't for true beginners, but for experienced divers wanting a little more, your local guides are sure to know about some of these following famous diving points:
Black Hole is a sinkhole 65 feet below the surface of the Gulf with an entrance roughly 100 feet wide. The limestone shafts plunge to depths of up to 224 feet. By degrees Black Hole is located at Latitude 25.842717 and Longitude -082.151900, and this spot is a local favorite.
If you want to see a major shipwreck, it's a ways off shore but the famous Fantastico wreckage can be reached by divers. Fantastico was the name of a 200 foot long Honduran freighter that sank in 1993 while hauling cargo from Tampa to Miami.
The Naples Barge remains one of the most popular dives that offers a lot to both beginners as well as experienced divers. The major shipwrecked construction barge is part of an artificial reef and located only 5.5 miles west of Gordon Pass.
Relatively close to Naples Florida is the Kidd Wreck. This is the shipwreck of an 85 foot barge in 45 feet of water and the location is renowned for large groups goliath grouper, snapper, and barracuda. If you're diving in this area, you're also close enough to stop by and visit the Collier 5 Mile Reef, a long artificial reef consisting of many concrete columns.
The average cost per person for a dive can vary from charter to charter, and it's important to find out what a charter's cost includes. Some charge a flat fee like $150 and then extra for tax and tanks. Other charters will have package deals which include tax, equipment, guides, and everything. Because of this, trips can range from $150 a person to $500 for a group or even slightly more depending on the charter and the package you're interested in.
The town of Fort Myers Beach boasts a large number of beaches, as you would expect from a town of that name. This includes multiple public beach access points for boaters, jet skiers, and anglers not to mention those tourists and locals alike who just want to kick back on the beach and get some of that famous Florida sun.
Three different local parks boast beaches, and you can visit the Estereo Bay Preserve State Park or Mount Key Archaeological State Park if that's your thing. You can easily spend an entire day wandering through the historic downtown, renting a fishing charter for a day on the water before going under it, or preparing for a guided tour to the Everglades.